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Bulls vs. Blazers preview: LaMarcus Aldridge leads red-hot Portland

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

[Thanks to bleeinternets for signing up (and doing!) a game preview. -yfbb]

Well last night was fun wasn’t it? I kid, I kid. It wasn’t fun at all. The Bulls fell to the Denver Nuggets last night to kick off the Circus Trip™ and after a first half where our guys were able to keep it close, the Nugs got on a run, created some distance, and we couldn’t quite come back. (Jay has a wrap up over here)

Gotta have a short memory, though, as it’s right back on the horse tonight for the second half of this back-to-back. It doesn’t get any easier as our hearty band heads to Portland to face the Blazers at the "Moda Center," which is apparently what they call the Rose Garden these days. Last season the Bulls dropped both games to the Blazers, including one on the Circus Trip. And this year the Blazers are better. /annoyed grunt

Portland enters the game at 10-2, the second best record in the Western Conference and third overall in the Association. The Blazers lost on opening night to the Suns and again to the Rockets on November 5, but they haven’t dropped a game since and are riding an 8 game winning streak. They return home to the Rose...I mean Moda Center after a perfect 4 game road trip against some of those "meh" to "bad" Eastern Conference teams. (Celtics-Raptors-Nets-Bucks)

How good ARE the Blazers, though? Paul Flannery looked at the evolution of the the team over on the SBN mothership at the changes they made this offseason: improved defense (middle of the pack in defensive rating but that’s an improvement over last season and it works well with a very efficient offense), a revamped bench, and offensive rebounding.

The Blazers have run with the same starting 5 all season and tonight shouldn’t be any different -- look for Damian Lillard, Wesley Matthews, Nicolas Batum, LaMarcus Aldridge, and Robin Lopez to start. Lillard is reigning rookie of the year, Matthews is leading the league in offensive rating, Aldridge is a double-double machine (not unlike Carlos Boozer I guess but also much better). So yeah, they have some weapons.

Though the starting lineup could present some problems, the Blazers added some depth in the offseason. With Thomas Robinson, Mo Williams and Dorell Wright all playing valuable reserve roles, it takes some load off the starters who played the fourth most minutes together out of any lineup last season.

Additionally, watch out for the 3-ball tonight, as Lillard and Matthews are ranked 2-3 in 3-pointers made, and Matthews is shooting a very hot .500 from beyond the arc. As a team the Blazers are shooting .415 from 3-land, good for 4th in the NBA.

As for the Bulls, Jimmy Butler didn’t travel with the team and he remains out. (hopefully he's gotten some nice insoles for these shoes to deal with that turf toe) Look for Dunleavy maybe to start again, although Thibs wouldn’t tell us until the last possible minute anyway so let’s all just be surprised. Marquis Teague got some run last night, but didn't actually look good, while Tony Snell picked up a garbage minute (and scored a basket!) along with Erik Murphy after Taj got ejected. That all said, if Rose puts together a good full game (eh) and if Deng doesn't have a horrendous shooting night (eeeeh) this game could be pretty close. As it is, though, my expectations for this evening aren't super high.

Just make it through the Circus Trip. Just make it through the Circus Trip. Just make it through the Circus Trip. (say it enough times and it'll come true)

For more on the Blazers check out SB Nation sister site Blazers Edge. If you want to go back a little bit, check out this piece from Ben Golliver on Brandon Roy. I loved Brandon Roy for basketball reasons but I also loved him ‘cause his name is Brandon and us Brandons have to stick together.

(Also, a fun factoid: the Blazers led the league in miles traveled in 2012-13. However, this is a home game for them so whatever. I just thought that was cool to add. Sucks for traveling when you don’t have the Sonics right up the road, I guess.)

Tip off is at 9:00pm Central Time on Comcast and WMVP-1000. Plenty of bike parking in Portland if you want to start heading over there. Have fun, be good, go Bulls.